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Kudzu, B.C. join BP Lighter Side lineup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–There’s something new to smile about in Baptist Press — and Executive Editor and Vice President for Convention News Will Hall said the reason can be found at BP Life Lighter Side.

BP Life Lighter Side, at www.bpnews.net, is a new daily feature on the national news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, providing readers with five cartoon strips — B.C., Church of the Covered Dish, For Heaven’s Sake, Kudzu and a cartoon by Joe McKeever.

“As Christians we know the source of true joy and happiness and it’s wonderful to be able to provide a touch of laughter to Baptist life,” Hall said.

Using the scripture reference of Proverbs 17:22, Hall said it is indeed true that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine… .”

The comics are available for viewing by all Baptist Press readers and for publishing by all state Baptist newspapers.

“We are glad to provide this service free of charge to all of our state Baptist newspapers,” Hall said.

The cartoon features include:

— Cartoonist Johnny Hart’s B.C. brings laughter to more than 100 million readers worldwide.

“As far back as I can remember, I drew funny pictures which got me in or out of trouble depending on the circumstances,” the successful comic strip creator recalled in his biography.

But Hart, a born-again believer, never really considered cartooning as a serious profession until he graduated from Union-Endicott High School. At 19, he met Brant Parker, a young cartoonist who became a prime influence in his life and later became a partner in the Wizard of Id, another of Hart’s comic creations. From the time of their first meeting, cartooning became the driving force which motivated Hart to work toward the day when he would join the fraternity of cartoonists he idolized.

In 1958, B.C. was born — and rejected by five syndicates before being accepted for newspaper syndication. Today, Johnny Hart’s B.C. and its renowned cast of prehistoric merrymakers appear in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide and is distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Since the early days of his career, Hart’s dream of joining the distinguished company of fellow cartoonists has more than come true. He has been lauded by his peers and praised by the public. He has won numerous awards for B.C. which include: Best Humor Strip in America, National Cartoonist Society, 1967; The Reuben, Cartoonist of the Year, National Cartoonist Society, 1968; The Yellow Kid Award, International Congress of Comics, 1970; NASA public service award for outstanding contributions, 1972; Adamson Award, Swedish Museum of Comic Art, 1975; and the Seger Award, King Features, 1981.

“The comic strip field is an exciting one. It principally is made up of people who have refused to grow up and who offer marvelous fantasies to those who wish they hadn’t,” Hart wrote in his biography.

Hart draws B.C. in his Endicott, N.Y., studio. Endicott is the town where he was born and presently lives with his wife, Bobby. They have two daughters, Patti and Perri.

— Doug Marlette is the creator of Kudzu. Born in Greensboro, N.C., and raised in Durham, N.C., Laurel, Miss., and Sanford, Fla., Marlette graduated from Florida State University and began drawing political cartoons for The Charlotte Observer in 1972.

He joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1987 and New York Newsday in 1989 and continues to draw for them today.

His editorial cartoons and his comic strip, Kudzu, are syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide. He has won every major award for editorial cartooning including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. He has received the National Headliners Award for Consistently Outstanding Editorial Cartoons three times, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for editorial cartooning twice, First Prize in the John Fischetti Memorial Cartoon Competition twice and was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and he has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Morning News, ABC’s Good Morning America, ABC’s Nightline, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and the Jim Lehrer News-Hour.

His work is collected in 17 volumes, including In Your Face: A Cartoonist at Work from Houghton Mifflin, Faux Bubba: Bill and Hillary Go To Washington, from Times Books/Random House, Gone With The Kudzu from Rutledge Hill and I Feel Your Pain from Loblolly Books. He also co-wrote the screenplay, “Ex” with Pat Conroy.

The musical adaptation of his comic strip into “Kudzu, A Southern Musical” in collaboration with Jack Herrick and Bland Simpson of The Red Clay Ramblers was produced at Duke University and at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and has been published by Samuel French Co. A cast album CD is due out soon.

Marlette lives with his wife, Melinda, and son, Jackson, in Hillsborough, N.C.

— Thomas C. Tapp (Brother Thom) has been pastor of the Oral Baptist Church in Lenoir City, Tenn., since 1996 and is creator of Church of the Covered Dish.

He has served as pastor of four churches in Tennessee since 1980, and believes in partnership ministry.

Tapp uses his ministry experiences as fodder for his daily cartoon strip. It appears in newspapers and ministry journals across the country including Leadership Journal, Christian Computing Magazine, and Enrichment.

He and his wife, Gail, have three children, ages 15, 20 and 25, and three grandchildren.

— Joe McKeever. McKeever is well known in Southern Baptist life as a cartoonist and as pastor of First Baptist Church, Kenner, La.

His cartoons depicting the humorous and satirical side of church life have appeared in a number of state Baptist newspapers and other publications.

“I am the product of a loving church that embraced a 19-year-old who had transferred to a nearby college,” McKeever said. “The love and warmth in that body of believers has stood in my mind ever since as the norm. This is how church is supposed to be.”

When he isn’t drawing cartoons, McKeever said he finds “delight in children, particularly my six grandchildren.”

— Michael Thomas Morgan is the creator of For Heaven’s Sake. A native of Conyers, Ga., Morgan graduated from the University of Georgia and has worked in a number of Georgia newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Also in 1991, Morgan began drawing For Heaven’s Sake, a weekly comic strip that celebrates the faith and pokes fun at the foibles of the congregation of the fictional “Mainline Memorial Church”.

First published in the religion section of The Macon Telegraph and in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, For Heaven’s Sake is now distributed by Creators Syndicate to several newspapers and denominational publications around the nation, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The United Methodist Reporter. In 1992 Morgan became a member of the National Cartoonists Society.

Morgan was appointed pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Macon in June 1992, leading that congregation for the next four years. In June 1996 Morgan became pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Hazlehurst, Ga., and Philadelphia United Methodist Church. Also in 1996 Mike was elected chairman of the South Georgia Conference committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

In June 1998 Morgan was appointed editor of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the official newsweekly for Georgia United Methodists.

Since 1980 Morgan has been married to the former Karen Carter of Waycross, Ga. They have two sons, Thomas, born in 1984, and Daniel, born in 1989.

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